Are Humectants Vegan? What Are Humectants Made Of? 

By Anett Rannamets. Updated: April 2023.
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Humectants can be both vegan and non-vegan. Humectants are water-binding ingredients in skincare used to hydrate and moisturize. Humectant is an umbrella term, and as such represents many different components, with different sources. Therefore, humectants can be both, vegan and non-vegan.

In the food industry, humectants are used as food additives to prevent food from drying out. However, humectants are also beneficial in skincare. How and what are they made of? Let’s find out.

What Are Humectants? What Are Humectants Made Of?

Humectants are hydrophilic substances that bind water from the environment into the epidermis. Humectant gathers several ingredients under itself with different origins. So, humectants can be animal-derived, plant-based, or synthetic.

Chemically speaking, humectants are hygroscopic substances that form hydrogen bonds with water molecules. This bond helps to hydrate the skin by attracting water from the lower cell layers or from the environment.

Humectants are used in many cosmetic and personal care products, including hair products, body lotions, moisturizers, eye creams, lip balms, and so many others. But humectants can be man-made or derived from nature. 

Some popular non-vegan humectants include:

  • Animal-derived glycerin  –  obtained from animal fats
  • Lactoperoxidase  –  derived from milk
  • Animal-based sodium hyaluronate  –  obtained from animal tissue
  • Animal-derived hyaluronic acid  –  obtained from animal tissue
  • Honey  –  made by bees

Some of the best vegan humectants, however, are:

Why Are Humectants Used In Skincare?

Humectants are used in skincare because they keep the skin hydrated, healthy, and elastic. They also prevent the premature formation of wrinkles and strengthen the natural skin barrier. Humectants are commonly found in moisturizers, lotions, hand creams, serums, and eye creams.

The hydrating ingredients attract water and help prevent moisture loss. Humectants used in skincare are best known for their ability to make skin feel softer and smoother.

In addition, humectants serve as a skin barrier. They help fill cracks and take care of dry and rough skin. Humectants form a layer on the skin which does not allow harmful substances to penetrate the skin.

Further, humectants also remove dead skin cells. As many humectants act also as exfoliants, they help unclog pores and remove buildup that can make the skin look dull.

Humectants works by attracting water to keep the skin hydrated. This is different from emollients which work by forming a thin hydrophobic film on the skin’s surface that repels water and prevents moisture loss.

Some humectants contribute to wound healing through their soothing properties. They condition the skin, reduce inflammation, and fight oxidative stress, which is why humectants are often used in ointments made for wounds and burns.

Moreover, humectants have an effect on fine lines and wrinkles. Due to their ‘plumping’ feature, humectants reduce aging signs. Regular use of a product that contains humectant, leads to younger-looking skin.

FAQ About Humectants

What are humectants?

Humectants are hygroscopic substances that form hydrogen bonds with water molecules. This bond helps to hydrate the skin by attracting water from the lower cell layers or from the environment.

What are vegan humectants?

Some well-known vegan humectants include butylene glycol, propylene glycol, glycerol, sorbitol, aloe vera, vegan hyaluronic acid, and oats.

What are animal-derived humectants?

Some popular non-vegan humectants are animal-derived glycerin, honey, animal-derived hyaluronic acid, and lactoperoxidase.

Are humectants vegan?

Humectants can be both. The term represents a lot of different components, all of which have their own origin. Therefore, humectants can be both, vegan and non-vegan.


To sum up, a humectant is a moisturizing agent that binds moisture using water present in the skin or in the environment. And you can find several types of humectants for skin care. However, some of them might be vegan, some of them not.

For example, honey, animal-based glycerin, or animal-based hyaluronic acid are very popular humectants in the list of animal-deriver skincare ingredients. Luckily, vegan alternatives are as effective or even safer and more stable.

So, there are a lot of great vegan humectants like vegan hyaluronic acid or aloe vera. Still, we recommend purchasing your skincare products from vegan skincare brands or looking for certified vegan labels on products. 

See also: Vegan Skincare For Dry Skin

Anett is a passionate journalist, writer, and magazine editor with almost 7 years of experience. Through engaging articles, she brings kinder and more environmentally-friendly choices closer to everybody.